Local 49 helps Albuquerque Sign Language Academy feed kids in need

May 16, 2024

During the 2023 holiday season, SM Local 49 (Albuquerque, New Mexico) members gave their time, funds and food donations in a demonstration of union solidarity, helping the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy (ASLA) gather and distribute food to kids who rely on school meals — but can’t access that crucial nutrition source during breaks.

Local 49 officers and members joined ASLA staff and students to both donate food and load up trucks for delivery.

“Building better communities — that’s our mission with the SMART Army, and it is vital as a local that if we can, we should assist the community we live in,” explained Local 49 Business Manager Isaiah Zemke. “Thank you to our membership for assisting the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy with food donations. The academy’s staff is amazing and hustles to make efforts to help those kids eat.”

“Our families are truly very lucky to have the support of the union and the whole community, and the [ASLA] Honey Badgers appreciate your support,” an academy staff member told Zemke in a video shared to the local’s Facebook page.

The academy is nationally unique in that it serves students who are deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing within the same environment, said ASLA Executive Director Raphael Martinez. In its 15 years of existence, the academy has quickly become a local staple, Martinez added — making it a natural partner for Local 49, another organization rooted in the community.

While the connection between ASLA and the local happened on short notice — funds to provide food for ASLA were approved by Local 49 only one week before the donation event — the effort was a success.

“We look forward to doing this again next year,” concluded Zemke.